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August 6, 2013

Contract dispute blocks Fox 6, NBC 48, for local Dish Network customers

Cullman Dish Network customers are missing a few major local channels due to a contract dispute — and there’s no telling how long they might be gone.

An ongoing contract battle between Montgomery-based Raycom Media and satellite television provider Dish Network has caused local affiliates WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham, WDFX Fox 36 in Dothan, WSFA NBC 12 in Montgomery and WAFF 48 NBC in Huntsville all to go dark for Dish subscribers in Alabama. Across the nation, the dispute has blocked Raycom stations in 36 markets and several states.

Feeds to the local channels were shut off on Aug.1, and have remained dead ever since. Officials on both sides say negotiations are ongoing, but blame the other party for the blackout. The shut down stems from negotiations over a new retransmission agreement, as the previous deal expired at the end of July.

In a statement on the dispute, Dish officials allege Raycom will not agree to a fair rate.

“We are ready to listen to a fair proposal from Raycom to bring this impasse to a swift end,” DISH director of programming Sruta Vootukuru said. “Unfortunately, the broadcaster has not been willing to pursue an agreement that would have avoided this disruption of service to our customers and Raycom viewers. DISH has offered to pay Raycom the same rates as our primary competitors; yet Raycom has stalled negotiations, refusing to accept that fair offer. DISH has negotiated hundreds of local retransmission agreements and on behalf of customers, we hope Raycom will soon agree to terms in line with market standards.”

According to Raycom, Dish has “refused” to come to terms on a new rate and enter into a new agreement with the content provider.

 “We understand this is frustrating for DISH Network customers, we share their frustration, and we are committed to doing everything we can to resolve this issue,” Raycom Media President and CEO Paul McTear said.

In the meantime, Dish has attempted to provide some other stations for subscribers as free previews until the fight is resolved, while Raycom is encouraging viewers to switch TV providers from Dish to restore the stations immediately.

Transmission fee disputes have become more common in recent years, and the Raycom issue is only the latest blackout to occur nationwide. In larger markets like New York, Time Warner Cable and CBS are currently duking it out with attack ads over similar disagreements.

Though social media campaigns and online complaints have started to gain some traction, customers are left with few options other than contacting both companies to voice complaints about the service disruption.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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